Now that I have a taanka, it gets filled by the rainwater. The children are taking baths daily. I also take baths, and we have water to drink and water for all the animals too. Many things have improved in my home. Visitors can now drink water here. We can even give buckets of water to people in nearby homes.
Kamala and her taanka.
Nioma Meets Kamala's daughters in law.
I visited Kamala Devi, the widowed wife of Bhera Ram, in the village of Dayakaur located in Rajasthan, India. She has lived a painful life full of loss. As a young girl both her parents died. Her aunt and uncle raised her, and she was married as a teenager and sent to live in her current home with her in-laws. She was widowed at the young age of twenty-five with seven young children, five sons and two daughters.
Recently, Kamala’s eldest son was killed in a motorcycle accident, leaving her to care for his widow and two children. Her four sons (two of which are married) also live with her. All told, twelve people live together in two small huts. Her two daughters are now married and are living in a different village. While I was there, Kamala’s eldest daughter was visiting with her children.
Before they were married, Kamala’s daughters used to walk with her for water every day. Each round trip to the canal or the naadi, (a rainwater catchment pond), was a two and a half mile walk that took three hours. They would make this trip at least twice a day carrying 45 lbs. of water in pots on their heads. Kamala’s daughters never had the opportunity to go to school.
And what has changed since you received a taanka?
"Now that I have a taanka, it gets filled by the rainwater. The children and I are taking baths daily now. And we have water to drink and water for all the animals too. Many things have improved in my home. We can even give buckets of water to people in nearby homes.”
How has the taanka benefited you personally?
“The taanka is right by my home so now I don’t get tired from walking so far for water. I also no longer have pain in my body like I did before, even though I am getting older. I can wash my clothes daily and my family can have as much as they want to drink now. And the water quality in the taanka is good so there are no diseases and no bacteria, so that means everything is better now.”
As the interview continued, Kamala’s feelings began to overflow.
“When I was a child I lost my parents and after that, my husband, and now my son just died — he was so young. I remember him in every moment. One day he told me he was going to work and he never came back. I try to control my emotions but I can’t. I am a mother and I can’t stop thinking of him. My daughter came here to visit me and give me support.”
As I sat with her and felt her pain I could only listen and encourage her as her tears flowed. Her daughter spoke “I walked with my mother whenever she went to get water, even when my father was dead, and all alone my mother cannot do everything so I never went to school. The taanka helps them a lot — now they can easily wash their clothes and take baths. Even my children can now visit, take a bath and eat properly.”
Since Kamala received a taanka, she has time to work and make money. She has been able to purchase six cows and ten goats. She sells the kids for meat, earning an income of $44 per month. She and her family can now enjoy milk each day and they have enough water. Their health is improving now and their farmlands yield more crops so Kamala and her family have more to eat.
I had been watching her two daughters-in-law working around the compound and I was eager to have them sit with us. They were very shy and in purdah (a scarf used to veil her face) “What are your names?” I asked. When the girls whispered their names the young children began laughing for some time.
“What’s so funny?” I asked. “They have never sat here with me before,” said Kamala. “Their names are Asha and Hukma and they are sisters. They got married together and are both illiterate”. They are very shy and when I speak to them they only answer in whispers. Kamala answers for them. “I too am illiterate. My parents died when I was a child, which is why I could not study. My uncle and Aunt brought me up and after some time they married me. But my granddaughters will go to school now.”
I told Kamala, “You have a beautiful family. Do you know that?” “Yes,” she replied, “I know that my family is wonderful but I remember my deceased son. If he were alive he’d be happy to see what you have done with this taanka for water. This taanka is a blessing. The water we drink from the taanka gives blessings to you. When we drink taanka water it gives us satisfaction, otherwise we were thirsty. It was so hot and we had to bring water from such long distances. But now you have built this taanka and we are very happy.”